So on my priest, the fabulously moustached Elgar, I have been doing lots of archaeology.
It’s kinda fun, and as someone else said, it’s much like treasure hunting! Here are some observations so far:
1) On Azeroth (levels 1 through 60) you will find fossil, dwarf, troll, and night elf artifacts. Kalimdor has more night elf and troll and Eastern Kingdoms has more troll and dwarf. Fossils are everywhere.
2) You gain skill each time you dig up something until around 80ish (though some say until 90 or 100). After that, you only gain skill up from completing artifacts (5 skill points for each one). I sorta wish I hadn’t completed any until after I was finished getting skill ups from collecting. That’s a tip for future archaeologists!!
3) It is tempting to use your bonus artifacts (the scrolls, runes, etc.) to help boost up a completion, but keep some handy as well because when you are completing rare items they often allow you to use more than one–so far one item was allowed to use as many as three which is worth 36 points towards your completion. You don’t want to get a rare item that takes 145 artifacts to complete and have no bonus artifacts to use.
4) Rare artifacts take a long time to complete, but are kinda cool! A reminder to yourself for each of your common artifacts you complete is that eventually you may get mini-pets or mounts!
5) Skilling up in Outlands is very fast because there are only two types of dig sites, Orc and Draenei. This allows you to obtain the pieces you need must faster since you’re not spreading out your artifacts between 4 possibilities. Also, I noticed that around level 350, I started to collect not just 3 artifacts each dig, but anywhere between 3 and 6 from each dig. This can speed things up as well.
6) Northrend will be slower again because now you have 4 dig site types again (possibly 5). You get two new dig site types the nerubian and vrykul, but you’ll also start finding troll dig sites again and night elf dig sites. I am not sure if there are dwarf dig sites as well, I haven’t come across any yet, but it seems likely.
You also can gain quite a bit of experience from archaeology. I have gained about 5 million experience from digging and am around level 400 for archaeology, I am certain that this experience will take me from level 80 to 83 without trouble. It’s quite crazy! I have not done any Cataclysm quests on Elgar in order to see just how much experience I can attain from getting to 450 archaeology. At that point I will start leveling as the dig sites will be in the same locations as my quests.
Archaeology is NOT fast. The actual digging and locating of artifacts doesn’t take very long, however, traveling between dig sites can be time-consuming as only certain digs will be active for you. Fortunately, you do not have to compete with other players for these dig sites, which is very nice.
I’ll post more updates and I discover new items or tricks and such about the secondary profession of Archaeology. This skill doesn’t really provide a DPS bonus, so probably caters more towards pet and mount collectors and those who are interested in some fun quirky items.